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ARTICLES // Season Tickets (2006)

I got my first cover story in 2006.

After attending the inaugural Reggae Snow Splash in Nagano (the location for the 1998 Winter Olympics), I wrote a review of the music and sent it around a few people.

The editor of the bilingual Outdoor Japan, who was also at the event, liked the piece and asked me into the OJ office to discuss writing the main feature for their Summer Music Festivals issue. Although I went to almost every UK summer festival I could in the first half of the 90’s, I’d never actually attended a Japanese one.

Still, not being one to turn down a good chance, I agreed. After much intensive research (not exactly easy as much of the information available online was in Japanese), I came up with the article found below. To be honest, I was quite astonished at the number of outdoor music events actually held in Japan – seems it’s a summer festival goer’s haven.

We decided to take the 60’s theme and I ran with as much psychedelic imagery as I could. The Beatles and Magical Mystery Tour, Alice In Wonderland, Ken Kesey & The Merry Pranksters, The Who‘s Magic Bus (also based on Kesey’s one), The Grateful Dead…what a long strange trip it was!

The piece was published as ‘Let The Good Times Roll‘ (originally ‘Season Tickets‘) and came with a whole array of wonderful and trippy graphics and illustrations by OJ’s chief designer. Title aside, it’s presented here as it appeared in the magazine, edited slightly differently from my original submission.

The trouble was, I unearthed so many great sounding events and in the end I wasn’t actually able to make it to any of them! Never mind, perhaps one day…

Cover design by Craig Yamashita.

Season Tickets

Roll up, roll on up—step right this way. Welcome aboard the OJ Magic Bus for the 1st Annual Summer Musical Mystery Tour with stops at the funkiest and grooviest places to kick back and dig the hot summer sights and sounds in Japan.

Events up and down; here, there and everywhere beckon you to step off the big wheel, get out of the board room and into your board shorts to breathe in the refreshing air, soak up rejuvenating rays and fill your head with music to invigorate your soul.

Ken Kesey’s coming along with his band of Merry Pranksters. John’s here, Paul, George and Ringo, the Walrus and the Carpenter, too. Drinks served by Tweedledum, snacks by Tweedledee. We’ll see if the Mad Hatter can pull out a rabbit or two. Everybody in? The journey is about to begin…

Down South

The sun first rises in Japan down in Okinawa upon idyllic beaches and tropical rainforests filled with island rhythms. It the perfect place to start the tour, so grab your flip-flops and get ready to work on that tan.

The first, and southernmost, event is the Miyako Island Rock Festival featuring the Orange Range and Bennie K, among others. The Tug of Rock ’n’ Roll, on the main island, brings together known and unknown acts to Okinawa and has previously featured Bump of Chicken, Shakalabbits and the High Lows. Just watch out for those yellow submarines!

Get on board the ferry; after the boat party we’ll arrive in Kyushu. The steaming volcanic landscapes and ancient forests are a wonderland to behold any Alice. Don’t miss the Aso Nature Festa or the Beach Café Sunset, which has been bringing ska, reggae and beach culture to Fukuoka since 1993.

Higher Ground ’06 is a large outdoor event in Fukuoka, sponsored by AU and including Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Puffy and Flow in the line-up. Jamaica Mura V.10 in Oita adds some more Caribbean flavor to the southern isle.

Next, the bus hits the main island of Honshu and rolls into peaceful Hiroshima. One of the biggest outdoor events, Festa de Rama, is held at Setoda Island Beach and features Little Tempo, Miceteeth and Sake Rock.

We then go lunar at the Miyajima Full Moon Party, held on the sacred island just off the coast.

Out West

Once again we’re island-hopping to Japan’s fourth largest one, Shikoku, to visit the fiends at the Monster Bash 2006, then boogie down at Disco Inferno ’06. The former includes Imawano Kiyoshiro and Beat Crusaders, and the latter is described as “The Hottest Party of the Summer!”

The Magic Bus then returns to the mainland and goes urban in the teeming cities of Osaka, Nagoya and Kobe, and then hits the cultural heartlands of Kyoto and Nara. Flagging already? Try a little of Tweedledum’s special Kool-Aid to pick yourself up.

Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, has plenty to keep us entertained. Summer Sonic is held over two days and with a mighty rocking line-up that includes Metallica, the Flaming Lips, Deftones, Massive Attack and DJ Shadow before it heads to Tokyo.

Another massive event, Udo Music Festival 2006, runs over two days and expects a crowd of nearly 100,000. Rush Ball ’06 then fills out Osaka’s party schedule.

The A-Nation juggernaut, a national touring event with some of today’s biggest J-Pop stars, rolls through Aichi and Hyogo with Ayumi Hamasaki, Ai Otsuka and Ami Suzuki on board.

Hyogo also hosts the 35th Annual Takarazuka Bluegrass Festival, one of more than 30 bluegrass fests in Japan. The event features a multitude of first-rate Japanese bluegrass bands.

Urban Kanto

Somebody wake the dormouse; we’re back on the bus and heading east toward mighty Tokyo where millions of people party to the break of dawn. Like the melody from the Pied Piper, the air will be filled with enchanting tunes to draw the natives out of their caves.

The Excite Music Festival brings some exhilaration to Yoyogi Park with the likes of Toshinobu Kubota and Ayaka Hirahara. If we hang around, we’ll also catch Sonarsound, featuring some of today’s most cutting edge electronic and experimental musicians.

Perhaps you’re looking for high culture to tickle your artistic taste buds. Tokyo Summer Festival runs over five weeks at various concert halls, temples, shrines and parks. On a different tip, wily cats will want to keep an eye out for the Herbie Hancock-curated Tokyo Jazz, a hip date on any calendar.

Down in Kanagawa, the Yokohama Arena hosts the Nano-Mugen Fes 2006 with Japanese artists such as Asian Kung Fu Generation playing with other international acts followed by Wire ‘06, Asia’s biggest techno festival.

Beautiful Shonan, with its great beaches, hosts Shonan Music Fest Vol. 0.9. Then take a stroll down the beach to party for charity at the Kamakura Beach Party.

And if this isn’t enough, we’ve still got Summer Sonic in Chiba too…

Around Tokyo

Surrounding the pulsating capital, the nearby beaches and mountains are a great place to recharge and get back to nature. The Izu Islands, Shizuoka’s beaches, Mt. Fuji and Nagano’s rugged alpine ranges are perfect backdrops for some outdoor party fun.

The Stones and the Grateful Dead did the Altamont Raceway in ’69. Santana and Kiss do Fuji Speedway at Shizuoka’s wing of the Udo Music Festival 2006. We’ll ask any Pranksters on board to keep the Angels in check this time.

Shizuoka, with its green tea fields, hosts a couple of ‘green’ events: Wind Blow ’06 and AP Bank Fes ’06, which last year featured Mr. Children and Every Little Thing. Both aim to raise awareness of environmental issues. Things splash down on the island of Niijima for The Pirates, Anoyo’s collective art conscious festival.

Honshu’s adventure capital of Minakami (Gunma) hosts their popular Full Moon Parties all summer. Camping, bungalows and adventure weekend packages are available and it’s just a short trip from Tokyo.

Asagiri Jam, SMASH’s low profile follow act up to Fuji Rock, has sold out the last two years— before even announcing their line-up! Once again you’ll have to wait until the week before the show to know who’ll show up.

Our final stop in this neck of the woods is the Rock in Japan Festival in Ibaraki. Staged at a seaside park by the publishers of Rockin’ On, it allows huge crowds get to see the good, the bad and the beautiful of the Japanese music scene. Dragon Ash, Shonen Knife, M-Flo and Polysics will all be there.

Up North

Time for the big one: Fuji Rock is Japan’s answer to Glastonbury. It takes place on the green slopes of Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata—a venerable summit meeting of top international and Japanese acts. This year’s line-up includes Red Hot Chili Peppers, Franz Ferdinand, Super Furry Animals and the Strokes, among others.

Ravers will delight in the Solstice Music Festival, and then, what better place to watch the sun sink on the horizon than the Sea Of Japan Sunset Concert on Aoyama Beach.

Before we leave Niigata altogether, the mighty rhythms of the Earth Celebration on Sado Island draw us in. The Kodo drummers are the focal point of this three-day music, dance and arts festival, which encourages musical and cultural collaborations with artists from around the world. This year they welcome Tamango Urban Tap from French Guiana.

Anybody see that? I’m sure it was a white rabbit heading north. We roll along rugged coastlines, through rich, virgin forests on our journey to the natural wilds of Hokkaido.

In Sapporo, we find a couple of events of classical splendour. Leonard Bernstein founded the Pacific Music Festival in 1990. His wish to contribute to world peace through classical music is carried on here every year. At the 19th Sapporo Asahiyama Music Festival, we get a breathtaking view and feel the power of a 700-person chorus as fireworks explode overhead.

Where do we stop? Our long and winding road trip through the magical wonderland of the Japanese summer music festival season ends where it began – by the sea.

The harbour city of Otaru, with its canals, beaches and great seafood, hosts the Rising Sun Rock Festival. This hefty event for all generations has been highlighting the Japanese rock scene since 1999. Camping is available and this year boasts sets from Kazuya Yoshi, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and Kodama, the Dub Station Band and many more.

As we reel in the remaining stragglers and head back to our rabbit holes, we thank you for riding along. As you alight from the OJ Magic Bus, we hope you’ll leave with some great summer memories to tide you over until next year…because the music never stops!

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Filed under 2006, Articles, Features